How To Label Your Homebrew Beer (Five Simple Ways)
Bottling your beer is the last step you have to take in the process before you can enjoy it. When the happy day arrives to bottle your hard work, labels help keep track of different components, including batch numbers, ABVs, unique characteristics, beer variety, and ingredients.
You can label your homebrew beer with paper labels or paper hanging tags. You can also order custom labels or shrink sleeve labels for your bottles. Another way to label your homebrew is by using a wax pencil or paint.
Label preferences and styles abound, keeping pace with the near-endless beer variety cornucopia. Read on for five simple ways—from temporary placeholders to permanent installations—to label your homebrew.
1. Paper Labels Printed With Laserjet
Printing labels yourself allows you to experiment with various styles, shapes, and artwork without placing an order for customized labels by mail.
One hurdle to this approach lies with inkjet printers, which use wet ink that dries on the paper. When moisture contacts the ink, it reactivates, causing it to bleed.
On the other hand, laser printers charge powdered ink (toner) and paper with static electricity. A hot roller uses heat and pressure to fuse the ink into the paper’s fibers.
Therefore, laser printer labels can offer multiple adhesive and coating options without the threat of ink bleeding. However, laser printers can’t produce as many colors or match the quality of an inkjet.
2. Make Paper Hanging Tags
You can use old business cards or paper scraps to make simple hanging tags draping around the bottle’s shoulders.
Here’s a simple process outline for basic tags.
- Write on paper or cardstock with a pen or permanent marker (pencil smears).
- Punch a hole with a hole-puncher or any sharp point.
- String some jute twine/elastic string/braided grass through the hole.
- Tie it tightly to the neck bottle so it can’t slide off the top.
To make them withstand temperature/humidity swings and handling, laminate them and use a Sharpie to write the info.
What kind of tie you need depends on what kind of bottles you use. To help you decide, I wrote The Best Bottles For Homebrewing (Complete Buying Guide).
3. Order Custom Labels
With unprecedented printing capabilities and modern logistics, you can have high-quality, 100% custom peel-and-stick labels sent to your door.
Standard labels print as paper stickers that you apply yourself. To keep them intact and immune to condensation, you can apply a waterproof decoupage medium over the surface.
Decoupage seals the edges so moisture doesn’t seep into the spaces between the bottle and the label.
If you want to avoid the hassle of DIY waterproofing—and don’t mind having to spend more money—you can order waterproof labels made of plastic or vinyl.
In terms of custom labels, these give you the clearest image and the best waterproofing.
PET plastic bottles are a common choice for brewers who want to store their beer for a short amount of time. You can read more about this in my article What’s the Longest You Can Keep Beer in Plastic Bottles?
Plastic bottles are easier to label if you use sticker labels but won’t work as well if trying homemade adhesive methods. If you’re reusing PET bottles, you can use sealed paint to label specific batches and keep reusing those same bottles for the same brew.
4. Shrink Sleeve Labels
Shrink sleeves consist of thin plastic film seamed together to form a tube. The tube slides around the bottle, then a heat source such as warm water or a hairdryer causes the sleeve to shrink around the bottle.
They work well on PET plastic bottles, as demonstrated daily on 2 liters (0.52 gal) of soda. They also work on glass and any object that holds its shape.
They arrive ready to apply and are easy to remove, but ensure you purchase recyclable sleeves because you can’t reuse them. They also cost quite a bit more than paper labels.
Order some blanks if you want a long-lasting sleeve without the cost and time associated with ordering custom ones. Blank sleeves come in several colors and provide a surface ripe for a permanent marker. Since shrink sleeves don’t use adhesive, condensation won’t affect them.
5. Wax Pencil Or Paint
Wax is hydrophobic, so it repels water. Whether bottling into glass or ceramic, a wax pencil can mark the glass and not run or bleed when wet. However, soaps and other liquids can break down the wax, so wait until after capping the bottles to label.
Since you can write straight onto the glass with a wax pencil, you’ll be able to label several bottles in only a few minutes. Wax works well against light smudging, but it can still smear, so be careful where you place it.
Make sure you can see what you write by choosing a pencil contrasting the shade of your glass or plastic. To remove the wax pencil, apply rubbing alcohol to a cotton ball or cleaning cloth and wipe it away.
You can set your bottles apart by painting them with acrylic paint. The paint also comes off with rubbing alcohol and elbow grease.
Or, you might have spare paint lying around, and you can use a simple swipe of color to distinguish bottles.
If you decide to paint your bottles, you can seal them with a decoupage medium after it dries to avoid chipping or peeling. Waterproof mediums exist if you want to clean the bottles but keep the paint on.
Determine What Style Label Suits Your Needs
Beer bottles condense, roll around in abrasive ice, and move between hands while wet. If you use the wrong material for the label or adhesive to secure it, the label will shred or slide off.
Are you giving it as a gift or showcasing it at an all-eyes gala? Go for a customized label. Making different batches with different ingredients for home consumption? Stick with a cheaper option that will withstand mild activity, and that won’t take too much of your time.
Consider what kind of bottle you’ll use. If you use glass bottles instead of screwtops, you’ll need some equipment to cap them. I’ve written more about this equipment in my article called Equipment Needed for Brewing Beer (23 Must-Haves).
Now that you know what labeling your beer involves, brush up on the bottling process by reading my article, 10 Essential Tips for Bottling Homebrew. The guide will help you bottle as cleanly as possible to keep your labels looking great.